Rob Bell: The Response

This is me. Catching up with the rest of the internet.

I have nothing substantial to add to the widespread and often raucous discussion. Instead, I’ll point you to the most important responses in the blogosphere. It’s time something good comes out of the ridiculous amount of the internet I read. Lots of links: go!

I linked to this in my Twitter feed over the weekend, but it seems that Rob Bell is getting his Brian McLaren on and emerging from his sheep-skin outergarments. Apparently, the doctrine of hell (and the God who sends people there) is what stands in the way of the spread of Christianity in the world. Darrin Patrick tweeted about the Bell’s book, citing someone who had read it, who says Bell believes that “Hell is a real place, but God’s love will prevail for every person and they will be restored.” Is this a new theological category? Perhaps: “universalism”? Oh, wait.

I guess he’s expecting applause or something from all the millennials who have defended his orthodoxy; instead I think he’s going to find himself standing alone on the other side of the line he’s crossed. Or maybe accompanied by those who were already over there.

This exploded over the weekend, prompting responses from all manner of incredulous Evangelicals (srsly: everyone, including a series of Desiring God reposts. They’ve pretty much said everything I would, and a lot of what I wouldn’t or couldn’t. Here’s the best of the responses:


We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the preeminent teacher of love and grace in history, “I am less barbaric than you, Jesus. I am more compassionate and wiser than you.” Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.

DeYoung (this one is gold, read the whole thing):

Rob Bell is right about one thing: what you believe about heaven and hell says a lot about what you believe about God. That’s why theological error of this magnitude cannot go unchecked. The God of the Vimeo clip is not a God of wrath, not a God of eternal recompense, not a God who showed us love in sending his Son to be a propitiation for our wretched sins, not a God whose will it was to crush the Suffering Servant in an exercise of divine justice and free grace. Indeed, says Bell—even if he says it with a question—such a God could not be good.


Time is running out on the Emerging folks. They can play the game of suggestion for only so long. Eventually, the hard questions will be answered. Tragically, when the answers do come, as with the case of Brian McLaren, they appear as nothing more than a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism.


My interest at this point is less in what Bell believes and what his book is going to say—that will be clear in March when the book begins to hit store shelves—but in the speed at which information and opinions have been disseminated. As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about digital technologies, about how our lives have changed because of them, I see here a clear example of the ever-growing importance we place on speed, on immediacy … I see in this situation a clear example of how the news works today, of how information spreads at light speed through digital media.

Sean Lucas, after historical reflections on the lesson of David Swing:

Without a truth-core that centers on the grand facts of divine holiness, love, grace, sin, judgment, hell, Christ, salvation, and heaven, there is no Gospel. And if there is no Gospel, then we are most to be pitied and ignored. No matter if you are David Swing or the contemporary rock star of evangelicalism.

…and of course Justin Taylor:

It is unspeakably sad when those called to be ministers of the Word distort the gospel and deceive the people of God with false doctrine.

But it is better for those teaching false doctrine to put their cards on the table (a la Brian McLaren) rather than remaining studiously ambiguous in terminology.

Piper (the really controversial tweet):

Farewell Rob Bell.

A LOT of people thought this tweet was smug and arrogant.

Look. Pretend you’re Piper for a second, and a nationally-recognized figure like Bell goes to blows with the doctrine of hell, insinuating that a loving God would never send people there. Your ministry is structured on the reality of hell and the coming judgement. This is a big deal for you, to the point where you write in a critical, perhaps defining polemical work: “The Final Judgment feels too close for me to care much about scoring points in a debate.” This is not a Matthew 18 scenario. This is not a private, personal offense that calls for a private, personal confrontation. This is a public gospel issue, the same sort of thing that prompted Paul to oppose Peter “to his face…before them all” (Gal. 2:11-14). You know that this theology not only dishonors God, his Word and his Christ, but could also be directly responsible for some passive church-going people ending up in hell. How would you respond? What would you tweet?

Finally, a true story from my actual life:

Two years ago. The Hive.

Friend: “Rob Bell didn’t actually deny the virgin birth, he just said it didn’t really matter whether it happened or not.”

Me: “…”

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